The Twenty SS20 Issue

Mashup: Fishermen & Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis

By Jo Phillips

From the 8th of October 2016 to the 22nd of January 2017, the exhibition “Fisherman & Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis” will open at the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. It is the first comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the career of Olive Edis.

Olive Edis (1876-1955) was the first-ever accredited female war photographer and one of the most important British photographers during her work between 1905 and 1955.

The exhibition features more than 190 photographs and presents images such as her war photography, Norfolk fishermen and British royalty, including the portraits of four British Prime Ministers. The war photographs are the result of Edis’ journeys to Europe during World War One where she captured the devastation of the war.

The exhibition appeals on historical, social and emotional levels and provides visual documentary evidence of Edis’ big influence on the history of photography. It also shows the technical development and the history of photography and how Olive Edis was part of it. For example, she was on of the first British people to use the Lumiere Brothers’ autochrome colour process and one of the first professionals to use a kinematograph camera and she even patented her own design of autochrome viewers. Additionally, she also took some of the first colour images of Canada as a part of a promotional campaign for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Another key theme in Edis’ work was the influential women in the early 20th century. She exemplified the emancipation of women and explained their changing role in society. Olive Edis was a very inspiring woman and a pioneer in many ways. She was a highly talented photographer, a visionary, forward thinking, independent, progressive and an extraordinary woman for that time. Furthermore, she started her own successful photography business in a sector that was dominated by men at that time, she invented her own new technologies and patents and she was the first-ever female war photographer.

If you want to read more about influential and inspiring women, check out our article on muses in our latest issue here.

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Self-portrait, Olive Edis. Autochrome, c.1912
© Norfolk Museums Service (Cromer Museum)

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‘Lotion Tar’ Bishop, by Olive Edis, Glass plate negative, date unknown © Norfolk Museum Service (Cromer Museum)

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Tank on the Menin Road by Olive Edis. Glass plate negative 1919 © Norfolk Museums Service (Cromer Museum)

Further information on the museum and the exhibition can be found here.